With FC Bayern München reaching the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals for the fourth season in five, 28-year-old German international Bastian Schweinsteiger took time out to talk to Champions Matchday about Bayern, his motivation this campaign and the changing role of a central midfielder.
How does it feel to have 69,000 fans calling you a footballing god?
Bastian Schweinsteiger: I'm surprised. I don't know why they sing it– the Bayern fans used to sing that for one of my predecessors, Carsten Jancker.
How would you describe the central midfield berth?
Schweinsteiger: You are the link between defence and attack. You're always in the middle of the action, that's the way I like it.
For me, moving into the middle was very important. Initially I developed as a central midfielder, but when I started as an amateur and in my first years as a professional I played on the wings. When you play there you depend on other things. In the middle you can always bring yourself into the game and try to guide it in the right direction.
How has the role of defensive midfielder developed in recent years?
Schweinsteiger: The role has changed but that has to do with football's development. In midfield you still need to be fit so you can get up and down the pitch. You need to be able to read the flow of the game and to play killer balls to put your attackers in a good position.
It's important to keep in mind that you need to support your defenders in every dangerous situation – to double up and support your full-backs for example. There is a lot to do and lots of responsibility, but that is what I want. I really like playing as a defensive midfielder.
You made your debut for Bayern in the UEFA Champions League in 2002. Do you remember that game?
Schweinsteiger: Yes, I like to think of that debut a lot. It was my first time playing with the first team. It was a cold night and there weren't many fans there [with Bayern already eliminated from the group stage, the match finished 3-3 against RC Lens ]. I had a lot of fun. This has always been a special competition for me.
Champions League nights are special. Playing the matches under the floodlights, listening to the anthem before the game and playing against Europe's best teams all add to the drama.
Were there any players you particularly looked up to when breaking into the first team?
Schweinsteiger: We had a lot of experienced players in our side. At first, I watched how Michael Ballack and the older players behaved. You don't just look at football skills, but their attitude and approach towards the game in general.
Do you still think about last season's UEFA Champions League final and Bayern's defeat by Chelsea?
Schweinsteiger: Of course I still think about it, because it was almost a home game for us. The stage was all set for us to win, and the defeat just shouldn't have happened. You try to come to terms with it but it's not easy, because the match is still too present in my mind. But it also acts as added motivation this season.
This is an edited version of an article in the new edition of Champions Matchday, official magazine of the UEFA Champions League. It is available in digital versions on Apple Newsstand or Zinio, as well as in print, and you can follow the magazine on Twitter @ChampionsMag.
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